Paging Ms. Van de Graaff -- your PC is ready

This pilot fish is the lone network admin for a division of a big payroll company. "The tech-to-user ratio in my area was 185 to 1 -- and I was the one," fish says.

"I almost never had problems that weren't user error or hardware related, so when one of my users began complaining of sudden shutdowns and reboots, I was surprised to find that none of my usual tricks worked."

Fish tries everything he can think of to cure the problem. He reloads the user's machine from scratch, gives her new hardware, checks for anything on the network that might be causing the flakiness. Nothing helps.

What's worse is that no one else in the place is having problems, and the user has the loudest, foulest mouth in the office -- and she doesn't hesitate to make her complaints known about fish's failure to clear this up.

Then one day, while fish is once again working on her machine, the user gets up from her chair and fish hears the telltale snap of a static spark -- and it's big one.

"She laughed about it and made a comment to her neighbors that she 'was electrified again,'" says fish. "I paused and asked her about that, and she told me that she seemed to always be able to generate the biggest and loudest static charges of anyone in her area."

Fish quizzes her about her clothing and checks out her work area. There's nothing to explain why, but it's pretty clear that she's a human static generator.

So fish goes to work. He puts a grounded static mat in the user's cubicle. He hangs a braided ground cable from the metal frame of her chair to drag along the mat. He puts a small static mat under her keyboard, and grounds that too.

He attaches an anti-static monitor screen to her display and grounds that. He has the building engineer verify that her cubicle's circuits are properly grounded. He installs a humidifier in her corner of the office, and even installs a grounded metal plate next to her PC and instructs her to touch it whenever she starts typing.

And over the two weeks of progressive static-killing measures, her PC's flakiness slowly goes away -- and so do the user's complaints.

"She finally admitted that I had found and solved her problems and thanked me for my troubles," fish says.

"In my relief for having this monkey off my back I was unable to resist the obvious reply: 'No charge.'"

Don't give Sharky a lot of static -- I prefer to get your true tale of IT life. Send it to me at You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

The Best of Shark Tank includes more than 70 tales of IT woe submitted by you, our readers, since 1999. Which all goes to prove, conclusively, that hapless users and idiotic bosses are indeed worldwide phenomena. Free registration is all that's needed to download The Best of Shark Tank (PDF).

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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